A close look at nacre, or mother-of-pearl, in an abalone shell, a type of marine mollusk. [Read More: Mother-of-Pearl Inspires New Ceramics]
The stacked arrangement of nacre makes it incredibly strong, because cracks cannot travel in a straight line through the material.
Abalone Nacre Close
Nacre is made of calcium carbonate mortared together with organic proteins.
Real and Synthetic Nacre
A comparison of real nacre (top) and a ceramic made to mimic natural mother-of-pearl.
This low-magnification image shows the circuitous route a crack must take through the synthetic mother-of-pearl material.
A crack must zig-zag its way through the stacked platelets in the new ceramic.